Is your company or brand looking to expand into international markets? Consider that more than 1/3 of all Internet users are non-native English speakers. To optimize your website for a global audience, you will need to adapt your existing website to local language and culture in your target marketing. This is called website localization.

Website localization is important for a variety of reasons. According to Forrester Research, visitors stay for twice as long (site stickiness) if the website is in their own language (Languagescientific). A properly localized ecommerce website can increase sales by up to 10 times (Locayta). Below we will share 3 considerations for website localization including functionality, cultural difference in online shopping behavior, and payment methods, followed by 10 tips to launch your global website.

Expanding into new international markets creates a variety of issues to consider when it comes to website localization above and beyond the expected language barrier. Locayta shared three localization considerations:


Translating your site is not a difficult task. However, it is critical to ensure that functionality does not suffer as a result. For example, are your spell correction and search functionality up to the job of handling multiple languages? Are product recommendations responding to multi-lingual searches?

Cultural Differences in Online Shopping Behavior

Ecommerce giant Amazon is currently focusing on the Chinese market, but they’re taking their strategy beyond issues of language and payment. Amazon have discovered that Chinese shoppers prefer to browse products side by side via multiple windows, rather than navigating back and forth. That’s just one example of how your site needs to be able to respond to cultural behavior.

Cultural Differences in Payment Preferences

In the past, a barrier to expanding an ecommerce website globally has been cultural attitudes towards payment and fulfillment methods. For example, in Italy, 50% of online orders are made via cash on delivery rather than credit card. In Sweden 80% of online orders are collected, not delivered (Retail Week). Your site localization strategy needs to take into account these differences.

Take these 3 factors into consideration before launching your global website.

Launching Your Global Website

An ebook called, 50 SEO & Website Tips For the International Marketer from Hubpsot, shared how to create a culturally optimized website and get more traffic. Below we will share ten basic tips for launching your global website. For more details, you can download the free ebook here.

1. Use Country Extensions or Redirects

Build language- or country-specific sites at each of your respective domain extensions (.co, .uk, .ie, etc.). If you are worried about duplicate content, refer to tip #2. Buy the domain extension and redirect it to a subdirectory ( if you would prefer not to have separate domains.

2. Set Up Cross-Domain Canonical Tags

Google now supports using the rel=”canonical” link element across different domains. Therefore, you can have similar content on both the .com and extensions on your site and use the canonical link element to indicate the exact URL of the domain preferred for indexing, making duplicate content a non-issue.

3. Set Up Local Servers

Google has stated that the country within which a website is hosted is a small factor in their international ranking algorithms. Therefore, consider having servers set up in your target countries.

4. Get a Local Mailing Address

Establish a mailing address or physical location in each target country. Then, make sure to add this mailing address to the about section of your localized website.

5. Send Website Visitors to the Right Domain

Automatically redirect people to the right site by using the country, IP, or browser language auto dectection.

6. Use the Language Meta Tag

Bing recognizes the language meta tag (ex: <meta  http-equiv=”content-language”content=”en-us”>), so include this in your localized website’s <head></head> section.

7. Set Proper Geotargeting in Google Webmaster Tools

You can geographically target certain websites or sections of your website to certain locations and regions via Google Webmaster Tools. Log in to your Webmaster Tools account, look under Site Configuration, and change your geographic targeting in the settings tab.

8. Make Your Website Load Quickly

The faster your website loads, the better rank your site will have on Google and other major search engines. Local hosting, mentioned in tip #3, will also help reduce page load speeds. Remember: less than 10% of users in the most active internet countries have broadbrand.

9. Use UTF-8 Compliant CMS/Software

This will accommodate for international character handling so you can view the output in Chinese, Japanese, Russian, etc.

10. Submit a Sitemap for Each Localized Site

Create and submit sitemaps for each country in Google Webmaster Tools if you’re using subdirectories for each of your sites. It is very important that Google indexes and understands all the pages on your site. Therefore, best practices suggest submitting a sitemap for each country or region you are targeting.

There are a variety of challenges when expanding your company into a global market. Do you have any tips for localizing a website? Please let us know in the comment box below, and share this post using the social bookmarking tools below.

Additional Resources

5 Ways to Win at Website Localization

Best Practices in Localization Project Management

Avoid These 5 Sins of Language Localization

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